This is an operetta in process! I anticipate completing the music and having it performance ready by July 1, 2023. It is based on a short play by the creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne. I'm transforming it into a comic operetta in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan;
it will be between two and two and a half hours long, in two acts.
I've already completed the two-act libretto, and have several songs completed.
The project's current status Week of April 2, 2023 (Due to visa processing, I was away from my studio, so there were no livestreams for March 19 or 26. I did however continue work on song 10!)
Weekly updates of the project's progress
(Includes details about upcoming livestreams with Don sharing the composing process.)
The completed portions of The Ugly Duckling
All the music scores and recordings of the completed music are on this page.
Kickstarter information page
The Kickstarter crowdfunding was not successful; however the project still continues with the projected
March AprilJuly 1 2023 deadline for the piano/vocal score.
Additional details about the Kickstarter program including rewards (rewards details also shown below)
The Kickstarter website page is here.
Introduction: The ugly waaa...?
You are undoubtedly familiar with the Andersen fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling. Fine. Now dismiss completely you preconceptions about A. A. Milne's play of the same name, as the only thing it has in common is the name, nothing more--no ducks anywhere; no water. Well, actually, there is a moat mentioned a couple of times, but really, no ducks.
It is however likely Milne stole the name, because his story is about someone who was an ugly child who grew up to be beautiful, but everyone around her still thought of her as ugly, more out of habit than anything else. (And a curse. Can't have a story of a princess and a prince without a curse.)
The king and queen devise a plan to get her married: when the prince arrives (he's one who has not yet heard of her ugliness reputation), they will substitute the beautiful maid in waiting as the princess, then have the princess wear a veil so as to be unrecognizable when they get married. As it turns out, the prince has the same quandary, but when the real princess and prince accidentally meet, they immediately fall in love and are glad to go through the deception for the sake of their royal parents; she hidden in a veil, he, in a suit of armor complete with a helmet with a downed visor.
That is basically where A. A. Milne's story ends.
It however sidesteps a very obvious question: what will the parents think when they discover they have been deceived? Will they allow the marriage to be finalized? In my version, that's how Act I ends. The second act involves additional complex treachery, scheming, economic collapses, unexpected interpersonal alliances, and an ultimate happy ending.
My expanded story subtly breaches perspectives on gender equality, income equality, and the embracing of diversity. It is also not without musical satire--my apologies in advance to lovers of Verdi, Mussorgsky, Rossini, and of course G&S.
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During the 1980s I was active in Atlanta's Gilbert & Sullivan troupe, the "Southeastern Savoyards" more as a student of composition than as a performer: my minimal vocal, acting and stage expertise limited me to non-leading roles, although I did get to participate in one Pinafore production as assistant director, possibly as a means for helping to keep me from interfering too much with the actual performance. My real focus of interest: studying how Sullivan was a master of setting words, specifically English words, to music.
In 1985 I and a colleague in the troupe, Jeffrey Whitfield, decided to write our own G&S-styled operetta, he the librettist, I the composer. We took as our story idea the play "The Ugly Duckling," written by A. A. Milne, the same writer responsible for the Winnie the Pooh stories. Jeff wrote the lyrics to the opening number and the first song, which I set to music, but we both were sufficiently distracted by more mundane issues (finding sources of income to allow us to eat), and quietly dropped the project.
Jump to 2021, or rather, leap there! I finally have enough income to eat, and decided to renew the project. Though invited, Jeff quietly declined, so the remainder of the libretto after the first two songs became my responsibility.
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The libretto has been completed, as have several songs. My goal is to have the music performance ready no later than March 1, 2023, and the orchestration completed shortly thereafter. Speaking of eating, I'm currently working on the project part time, and would like to have the opportunity to speed things along by obtaining enough funding through February to allow me to work on the project full time.
This project has an international spin to it: The story is from a prominent British writer. The genre is based on the British Gilbert & Sullivan-styled comic operetta. The composer/librettist is a U.S. citizen. The work is being composed in China. Options for the world premiere include China, England, the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and...
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Two "me's" to discuss here: the "me" as in "I," and the "me" as in "you."
The "I' me gets to be who I am: one who is compelled to get personal attention by making other's lives richer and happier through music. I'm human, and like most humans I've made mistakes and have hurt others and myself, but without intention to do so. This work is one way I am able to clean up some of the messes I've created.
The "you" me gets to be a supporter and contributor to a concept designed to enrich other's lives. I wish to be paid for the work, but the work isn't mine--upon its completion, it belongs to humanity. I learned this concept from Asian friends, who explained the idea that anything that benefits humanity does not belong to its creator, any more than a carpenter contracted to build a house would own the house upon its completion. It is for this reason that when I do crowd-funding, I don't need multiple tiers of different awards; any and every contribution is an investment in self by the contributor as well as an investment in humanity. In projects like this, every contributor is at the angel level!
By registering it as Creative Commons instead of a traditional copyright, this means anyone can perform any part or all of it for profit if desired, without having to pay royalties. The only legal requirement is that the original authorship is acknowledged, and any modifications for paid performances require my written permission.
Having said that, I do suggest that contributions be in the range of $10 to $50 USD. The goal is $20,000.00 USD, or $5,000 per month for four months from November through February; as I am currently residing in China where the cost of living is much lower, that amount has the buying power equivalent in China to $40,000 in the States.
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At the $100 level, your name or the name of the person of your choice will appear on the Patron Angel’s list on my website, and your picture or a picture of someone of your choice will be posted on my music studio wall. (Be sure you have your permission or the permission of the people you choose before you make your request; surprises however are welcome. Want to add a ‘will you marry me’ message?
You will also have the option of
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a live, personalized tour of my music studio (before or after adding your picture of choice);
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a live, personalized tour of my vitamin collection.
Live streaming can be via Zoom or WeChat.
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At the $200 level, you get everything from the $100 level, plus a live stream personal video in which I answer your questions. They can be personal, about music, politics, health, China, philosophy, <![if !vml]><![endif]>
and whether or not it would be appropriate for you to add a ‘will you marry me’ message on my studio wall.
At the $500 level, you get to have your name of choice inscribed on the published inside page of the final musical score under the Patron Angel’s list. <![if !vml]><![endif]>
You will also have the option of my creating for you a personalized musical answering machine message. (My personal ringtone is not musical, but makes Chinese people laugh when they hear it, because it is speaking to me in Chinese [I recorded it with my voice], "Hey, stupid, it's your phone ringing! Aren't you going to answer it?")
Additionally, you get to join the weekly one-hour Zoom / WeChat conference call I will be hosting. You will have an opportunity to observe the composing work in progress, as well as participate in sharing questions, suggestions, comments and criticisms (and hopefully a complement or two) about the musical.
At the $2000 level, all previous level benefits, plus I will write a personalized song for you. A wedding, anniversary, birthday, graduation, sibling, teacher, historical event, hysterical event—you provide the words or even just the idea, let me know which style you’d like it in, and together through music we’ll bring together or chase away whatever it is that you want to bring together or chase away!
By the way, it doesn’t matter what language you choose, except that if it is not English, I’ll need the words and not just the idea!
An example of a love song I composed may be heard at http://www.orfeomusic.org/Music/A_Bird_Will_Sing/A%20Bird%20will%20Sing%20with%20lyrics%20phone.mp4
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